Succeed in job search by claiming your strengths
Via Twin Cities : Here’s a bet I can usually win: I bet you’re uncomfortable telling strangers what you’re good at. Am I right? I usually am on this one. There’s just something built into most of us that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to imagine leading a conversation focused on our own strengths and abilities.
And yet, isn’t that the gist of a job interview? After all, interviewers — who are often strangers to you — need to know what you can do well. If you don’t tell them, who will? And if they never find out, how are they going to make the decision to hire you?
Obviously, you’re going to have to step up and spill the beans about your strengths. But first you’ll have to overcome your discomfort. Since strengths-based job search is a concept I’ve been using with clients and workshop participants for years, I’ve learned a few things about how this feels to job seekers. They usually tell me they’re too modest, they don’t like “bragging,” it’s difficult to talk about themselves, etc.
Probably my favorite is when someone points out that it’s all subjective and that just saying that something is a strength doesn’t make it true. Well, yes, but neither does not saying something make it more true. If we followed that logic, interviews would be conducted entirely in silence.
And for the record, the whole candidate selection process is a subjective exercise. Employers will select the person they feel is best for the job; candidates need to assist the decision-making process by providing as much relevant information as possible.
Which brings us back to implementation. Assuming you agree that employers need to know what you’re good at, your task is to identify and then present your strengths. How best to do that, and when in the process should you bring forward the information?
Starting with the last point first, I advise shifting gears to showcase your strengths the minute you know you need a job. Initially, most of the “outgoing message” will be in written form, but as your search gains momentum, you’ll need to add verbal communication to the mix.
To put this in a sequence, your LinkedIn profile and updated résumé are good written tools for presenting your strengths and abilities in the workplace. Once you have those in order, it’s a snap to use some of the same wording when networking as you prepare to launch your job search in earnest. Then at that point, all that’s left is to carry the concept into your actual interviews.
As for identifying the strengths themselves, that turns out to be the easier step. For the most part, people do know what they’re good at. They just lack context to help them judge if they’re “good enough,” as related to whatever scale the employer might be using.
The way to solve this problem is to stop trying to solve it, as it’s literally not your place to make that judgment. Your job in this process is to give employers information about what you do well; it’s their job to decide if you’re up to the level they need.
While you can (and should) conduct research to ensure you’re operating in the same ballpark as most employers in the field you’re pursuing, that’s about as far as you can take things without actually talking to each employer individually — which is usually what we call an interview. So there we are again, with you telling employers what you do well, and them using the information to make their hiring decisions.
Next week I’ll write more about how to word your strengths for different parts of the job search process. In the meantime, here are some tips to consider:
Rely on yourself as the expert about your strengths. Even if you’ve taken an objective assessment, you’ll be more convincing if you refer to actual work experiences than if you default to quoting your code from the assessment.
Reflect on the tasks others frequently delegate to you. Although you may be tired of the work itself and ready to move on, note that your core strengths are embedded in those delegated assignments. Whether it’s attention to detail, ability to build rapport with others or a facility with technology, any strength can be converted to higher-level tasks that better suit your career stage.
Recognize that it’s a service to others to talk about your strengths. People need to know what you can do and they’re much too busy (and under-trained) to come up with just the right interview question to pull it out of you. If you can simply present the information others need, you’ll make life better for everyone.
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